Sunday 29 December 2013

The 12 Gay Birthdays of Christmas : Part 4

George Dureau (b.1930)
(born 28th December, which the church commemorates as Childermass, or the feast day of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered on the orders of King Herod).
Earlier this month the leaders of the G8 group of nations gathered in London for a conference on Alzheimer’s disease. Increased funding for research was announced in the light of new figures showing the number of patients will increase significantly in the coming years. The most famous living Alzheimer’s patient is Sir Terry Pratchett, but in the lgbt community George Dureau stands as it’s most prominent, if unrecognised, sufferer. Dureau’s name may not be familiar, but his photographic work and paintings of the 1960s and 70s influenced more well-known artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe. Much of Dureau’s work deals with subjects which at the time, and still to some extent today, were uncomfortable for some viewers. Using non-professional models Dureau took pictures of, among others, naked dwarves and amputees, challenging people’s perception of beauty and perfection. Dureau’s models display a beauty of their own. Men with traditionally accepted perfect bodies were also photographed, usually of young black men, again challenging the predominantly white artistic world in the southern states where he lived. Now in his 80s George Dureau was forced to move into a nursing home last Christmas due to Alzheimer’s taking it’s toll on his health and memory. This summer a group of admirers mounted an auction of some of his belongings in New Orleans to raise funds to pay for his care.

Elsa Gidlow (1898-1986)
(born on 29th December, which this year the church celebrates as the 1st Sunday after Christmas).
Yorkshire-born  Elsa Gidlow was a poet, author, journalist, magazine editor, political activist and philosopher. In 1905 she emigrated with her family to Canada. Her writing career began when she became assistant editor on the company magazine published by her father’s employers. In 1918 she helped to publish one of Canada’s first gay magazines, “La Mouches Fantastique” (originally called “Coal From Hades”), which created some hostile public attention, especially after being attacked by the renowned fantasy-horror writer H. P. Lovecraft (he and Elsa had previously crossed swords as rival presidents of the United Amateur Press Association of America). In 1926 Elsa moved to the San Francisco Bay area which was to be her home for the rest of her life. She became involved in local politics, though her radical views fell foul of the Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s. Although a radical Elsa never supported Communism. In 1954 she bought a ranch which named Druid Heights, where she continued to write and live with her partner Isabel Grenfell Quallo. Many artists and radical thinkers stayed with them at the ranch, and Elsa co-founded the Society for Comparative Philosophy. In 1986 she published her autobiography, claimed to be the first to be published by an open lesbian. In her later years Elsa suffered from a series of strokes. She died at Druid Heights at the age of 87, and her ashes are buried under an apple tree on the ranch.

Yvonne Zipter (b.1954)
(born 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the 2 Wise Men).
Yvonne has been an editor and columnist since 1981 when she moved to the Chicago area from her native Milwaukee. She became a senior copywriter and manuscript editor with the University of Chicago Press. She also wrote her own original work which concentrated on the lives of the lgbt community in Chicago. Yvonne was a member of the Black Maria Collective which published a women’s literary magazine and was a board member of one of Chicago’s earliest lesbian publishing houses, Metis Press. She became a freelance columnist with “Windy City Times” in 1982, for which she contributed features, interviews and reviews. The monthly column she wrote, “Inside Out”, was syndicated in many other lgbt magazines across the USA. Yvonne has also written fiction and poetry. Her collection of poems called “The Patience of Metal” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, a highly prestigious award founded in the USA in 1986. Other works by Yvonne include essays and a book about the history of softball and it’s importance in lesbian sporting culture called “Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend”. In 1995 Yvonne was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, and still works for the University of Chicago Press as a manuscript editor. On top of all this Yvonne is also a licensed massage therapist.

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